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Basketball players from Lithuanian club Zalgiris are stealing the headlines from their infamous owner Vladimir Romanov, with veteran guard DeJuan Collins currently serving a suspension after becoming heavily intoxicated last week, prior to his team’s important Euroleague clash with CSKA Moscow. On Tuesday, Nov. 22, Collins arrived at Vilnius airport after being sent home from Moscow. Local media reported that he appeared to still be heavily intoxicated, struggling to answer simple questions. The guard is rumored to have suffered from alcohol related problems in the past and it looks like the alcohol may once more be getting the better of him. Collins turned 35 on Saturday and the following day his team suffered a heavy loss at the hands of Unics Kazan in a VTB League game. In that game Collins had a limited role, playing for four minutes and failing to pick up any points, rebounds or assists. It is unclear as to whether alcohol played a role on that occasion.
Zalgiris’ woes may now be about to get worse before they get better with the announcement that the ongoing lockout in the National Basketball Association (NBA) is about to come to an end. Zalgiris was one of the wealthier European basketball clubs that looked to benefit from the lockout, offering lucrative contracts to NBA players Ty Lawson and Sonny Weems, until the lockout came to an end. It was reported by leading Lithuanian basketball journalist Simonas Baranauskas via twitter that the guard Lawson’s final game in Zalgiris colors was expected to have taken place on Wednesday night, after TBT went to print. It remains uncertain as to whether Weems will remain with the team or return to North America as well. The experiment by Zalgiris to bring in the players could perhaps only be described as a failure in terms of success on the court, with Zalgiris recording one of their worst starts to a season in club history. In the VTB League Lawson averaged 9.7 points a game, and in the Euroleague the 24-year-old was averaging just seven points a night – figures that hardly justify the alleged 1 million euro-plus sum that Lawson was thought to be earning on his European sojourn. The other Baltic club to be affected by the end of the lockout is VEF Riga, who only last week had acquired San Antonio Spurs small forward Da’Sean Butler for a two-week trial period. However, the trial was cut short after Butler saw less than three minutes of court time last Friday night, with the 23-year-old heading back to USA as soon as it became clear the lockout was ending. The two clubs are yet to name replacements for their lost players.
Dinamo Riga has surged up the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) standings following an extremely successful month of November. After only winning four of their first 15 games to begin the season, Pekka Rautakallio’s men finally found a winning formula at the end of October, winning three of their final five games for that month. The form carried strongly into November with the team winning six of nine games in a shortened schedule due to a one-week break to allow for international matches to be played. Heading into their last seven games of the year, they are sitting in eighth place in the Western Conference, a position that guarantees them the final playoff spot. More important, however, is that they are 10 points clear of ninth placed Lev and within four points of fifth placed Severstal, meaning they have a strong chance to improve their position. Dinamo Riga forward Mikelis Redlihs continues to lead the league in assists, having provided 25 in 28 games – already tying his total from last season.